Fort Worth, Texas,
24
March
2015
|
04:15 PM
America/Chicago

Essential oils and children - more questions answered

Doc Smitty talks essential oils and children - Effectiveness, marketing & philosphy

Previously, I looked at the safety and research of essential oils and children. Today, I will answer more questions asked on my Facebook page.

Effectiveness/General Use

Do they really work or is it a mind over matter thing?

I think that there are probably some uses for oils that will be studied and proven to work. I think these will be pretty rare and only a small fraction of the claims that are currently made.

So, is it mind of matter (placebo)? Here are some of the most common uses I see for oils in kids:

Teething - It’s not even clear what symptoms teething causes …fussiness, fever, runny nose, etc have all come into question. But, if you give an oil and a symptom goes away, does that mean the oil fixed it? Not likely.

Fever - Fevers come and go during the day with illness, even without medication.

Cough/congestion - The regimens I see where children have oils placed frequently basically make it impossible to know if they do anything for these symptoms. Cough/congestion will be worse at certain times of day and better at others treatment or no.

How close are we to having actual research on the use of oils?

I still think we are quite some time away. Those that are currently doing research are often biased, are not doing high-quality studies and are using small sample sizes.

Marketing

Why are they sold through multi-level marketing (MLM)?

It’s a fast way to get a product out there and make a lot of money. Since I’ve been on social media, I’ve seen several of these types of MLM ideas crop up. The difference with these is I have some specific knowledge about the conditions they are being used for and specific concerns about how their use could harm a population of people that I care very much about. I know very little about bags and good smelling wax that can be melted with a light-bulb so I haven’t gotten involved until now.

In many ways, it protects the big company because they are not the ones out there making claims about the oils and what they can do. That falls to their independent distributors. If someone were to have a bad outcome because of their use of essential oils, who is responsible? If I prescribe a medicine that someone is allergic to, that responsibility falls squarely on my shoulders, not the makers of amoxicillin. If I prescribe the wrong medicine for a kids asthma and something bad happens, that responsibility falls to me.

Are they an increasingly popular trend or just something I was not aware of?

I’m not sure but it certainly does feel like they are gaining in popularity. Social media makes it seem that way at least.

Do you believe the claim that certain brands of oils are superior to others?

I’m sure there are differences but since we don’t even know what they do for the most part, it’s hard to answer this question.

Philosophy/Opinion

Regarding writing about essential oils: Are you mad, man?

Yes, in fact, I think I must be.

What’s the number one reason you see parents using oils instead of medicine?

In general, people are becoming less trusting of experts and organized institutions. Medicine and doctors are no different. The gap between what a doctor knows and what patients know shrinks every day. People can find out information about their conditions and know basically the treatment options that exist. People are looking to live more natural lives and most who use them feel that oils fit within that idea. When you combine these two issues, right or wrong, essential oils seem to step in the gap.

What is a good way to communicate with your doctor about your use of essential oils (for specific conditions and generally)?

I think it’s important to be honest with you doctor about your use of essential oils. As new information is uncovered it would be important for your doctor to be able to show you new research etc, especially if something shows a particular oil to be unsafe. They can only do this if they know about your use of them. Also, as doctors are prescribing medications, we need to know anything you might be on that could cause a drug interaction.

What is your take on the potential political barriers to the study of essential oils given that they are not backed by super profitable pharmaceutical companies?

Young Living is a very profitable company. They are big and profitable and will only continue to be more profitable. There is no reason that they could not start testing their own products or set up independent testing.

After your research as a pediatrician, would you use them on your children?

People will read all of this information or even do further research and come to different conclusions from me but here are two reasons I won’t:

1. I do not treat my kids with unnecessary medications. Since they are recommended for symptoms and given with the hopes of reliving those symptoms, I consider these oils to be medication.

2. I believe that, due to the lack of good studies, the use of them in children should be considered experimental at this point.

Summary

  • The use of essential oils seems to be growing.
  • The evidence for their use in children is slim.
  • Talk with your doctor about the products you are using so that they can be aware of potential safety issues and medication interactions. 

Previous articles on this topic:

 

 

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page.He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

Comments 1 - 11 (11)
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Emilie
03
April
2015
side note: I really respect your advice and have been reading your articles for I think more than a year. Because of the advice from you and people like you I am a lot more careful about using essential oils advertising them and listening to anecdotal evidence. Other commenters, please be respectful of this doctor who has spent countless years in school and training so he can serve our children! Please also remember, he is a PEDIATRICIAN, and it seems like to me, most of what he is saying is in regard to the safety and benefits of EO's on CHILDREN.
Emilie
03
April
2015
in your research, can you give any specific examples of the studies that are poor quality, biased or otherwise untrustworthy? I am always overwhelmed by the volume of information out there and it is hard for me to know if a study is trustworthy. I agree a lot of research is in vitro rather than in vivo, and very few on children, but I think that is a good place to start. I have found a lot of studies that seem trustworthy that show the benefits of various essential oils for various maladies ranging from stomach upset to bacterial and viral infections to even cancer. I respect your willingness to touch on this subject but am wondering if you have ever found any good research pointing to benefits of essential oils for adults at all. (I do realize that children can react very differently to medications and it would be dangerous to assume a medication thought to be safe for adults is safe for children.) I really do not think it is that far out there to believe plants can have healing properties. I lived in a third world country for a while, and our neighbors would go out in their land, find various plants and make a poultice or bandage out of them for various skin infections and conditions. They knew what plants to pick and where to find them bc their family had lived on that land for generations, and each new generation learned from the previous one about what to do for various ailments. They knew not to eat manioc with ginger tea bc it could make you sick. They brought me special porridge made from coconut milk and the pressed leaves of various nutritious herbs found in their land. When I drank it for breakfast I had a ton of energy and felt great. They brought me aloe for my sunburns and pomegranate leaves to apply to my eyes that got inflamed. I know none of this is anything a licensed doctor can rely on in his or her practice but I believe we cannot discount this type of wisdom. After all, many pharmaceuticals we rely on today are based on chemicals found in medicinal plants.I use and distribute Young Living Essential Oils and discovered them when I was at my wits end about my seasonal allergies. The first spring I began using them I had the best spring in years. It seemed like most people I came in contact with were miserable and I was having hardly any symptoms. I went from taking 3 zyrtec a day and daily use of oral and nasal inhalers to taking 1 zyrtec every other day and no inhalers. A while later I began to be nervous about frequent use of the oils so I used them less frequently and that fall and winter my allergies were bad and I had frequent sinus and ear pain and infections. Again, I know my story is anecdotal. I, like you, hope that more study can be done so that more people can 1) know more about what they are using, 2) overcome fears of using oils when found effective and safe, and 3) have access to natural products improve their overall health.My personal practice is that I never promote any oils that I have never used myself and all the remedies I use for myself and my family I have researched to the best of my ability both scientifically and through the testimonies of people I trust and have known for years.
A mom
26
March
2015
Kelley, can you please enlighten us as to what education and training one receives to earn the title "doTERRA Wellness Advocate"? Does that come with a license to provide medical advice?
Brandy
25
March
2015
Simmer, friends. Do they make an oil for kindness?Dr. Smith is a great doctor and even better dad. Getting defensive about his POV does not further yours. IN fact, it makes you look less than stable. As a person with a chronic disease (and a mom with children with chronic diseases), I completely understand the frustration of the limitations of the medical community and the hope for treatments outside of what is available now. But truly, there is no conspiracy. There is no big plan with doctors and big pharma. There is no second gunman. Do you truly trust a company that is charging you money for their products, encouraging you to sell it to others and has NO outside accountability to make sure their "research" is true and well done? Maybe you are right to trust them, but maybe consider the idea that you might be wrong. Dr. Smith is considering that maybe oils work in some areas. You might consider admitting that it COULD be a scam.
Boopie
25
March
2015
I'm amazed to see all of these people criticizing a doctor. I assume that Amy, Kim and Kelly are all medical doctors with many decades of medical research under their belts? Or...are they greedy MLMs? Hmmmmm.....Thank you, Dr. Smith, for the very interesting article.
Justin Smith, MD
25
March
2015
Kelley,If you go back to one of the original posts on the topic, you will see that I did search aromaticscience.com extensively and I will agree with you that it is the best resource for scientific studies related to the use of oils. There are plenty of studies there but many are test tube, less are animal, less are adult and only a handful in chidlren. Certainly, I did become a doctor to help others and part of that means evaluating what evidence I can for treatment options and relaying that to patients in a way that would help them make decisions for their children. Where there is good evidence supporting a treatment option I will point patients towards it, where there is a gray area I will present sides and let the parent choose, where there is little to no evidence I will simply state that as the case. I am not calling out anyone or calling them a bad parent for using oils so I find it interesting that you would point towards my being a dad to try and persuade me that using oils is a better choice. I have plenty of patients who use oils in my practice and I can assure you that we have very open dialogues about their use and I don’t belittle their opinion in any way, nor try to make them feel like a bad parent for choosing them. I assume that 99.999999% of parents are trying to do what’s best for their children. My guess is that most of them would say that they appreciate my willingness to even touch on the subject. I do believe that there will continue to be evidence come out that show some uses for oils but I believe it will fall somewhere between my current comfort level and where the more extreme advocates for oils are. I certainly learned from my research some of the preliminary evidence for use of tea tree oils for several skin conditions (including molluscum as you mentioned). I certainly will continue to monitor as new research comes out and will incorporate any treatment that has proven scientific benefit. I watched some of the doctor panels from the conferences and they pointed towards the resources that we used in order gather our information. Thus, I will continue to follow these sites to see what new information is released over time.
Kelley
25
March
2015
Dr Smith,Please go to www.aromaticscience.com to educate yourself on the 1000's of clinical research studies done on Essential Oils ability to support body functions to improve wellness. Since you don't know "if" they work, try them (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Only)! If you don't know how they work, then come to one of my clasess. But please don't write another article about something you clearly know nothing about. I am continue to be amazed how most of the medical community lacks a desire to even learn about plant-based alternatives for health. Why did you become a doctor? Was it for money? Was it for power? Was it for fame? OR Was it to make a difference in the lives of your patients by helping them be well? I sure hope it was the latter. And if it was the latter, I would think you would be running to find the research behind what millions are having great success with. I would think you would be hungry for a better option than the synthetics and chemicals in pharmaceutcals that are causing toxic side effects in your patients and can lead even to death. I would think you would be hungry to know of plant based solutions that effectively tackle viral infections since I haven't met a doctor yet who will offer me a pharmaceutical option for a virus. I would think with all of the antibiotic resistant infections that are rampant in every hospital in the USA that you would want to know of powerful, natural alternatives to fungal, bacterial and viral infections instead of watching yet one more person die of MRSA. As a mom of a 5 and 7 year old, I can tell you we haven't needed Cook's Children or a doctor in 2.5 years. We haven't needed an over the counter drug either and we have successfully handled fever, throwing up, bronchial infections, molluscum and allergies in a very quick and efficient manner that has been proven safe and quite effective. Since you are a parent of littles, I am encouraging you to not just be a better Doctor but be a better dad and do your due dilligence to learn about the chemistry behind these amazing gifts of the earth. What do you have to lose? Since you are a doctor, I would say you have much to lose! Your lack of knowledge about God given solutions in nature could quite possibly cost the life of a patient. What will you do to prevent that when all the pills and drugs in the world don't stop the infection? Please reach out to Dr. Hill, an essential oil expert and owner of DoTERRA Essential Oils! Or goodle doTERRA and the "doctor panel" we have at every convention. Educate and empower yourself to serve your patients well. I promise it will be worth the time you invest.Blessings,KelleydoTERRA Wellness Advocate
Kim
24
March
2015
I understand where you are coming from Dr. Smitty, I was a skeptic too because of my background in Human Biology. However since using the highest quality essential oils I have dropped my cholesterol over 50 points (without diet or exercise change), completely managed my son's ADHD to the point they have completely taken him off of his IEP, and I've finally been able to get myself free of a prescription depression medication I had tried several times to get off of. Essential oils have truly changed my life so I hope you consider doing more research.I would recommend going to www.PubMed.gov and searching for the research that is being done on high quality essential oils. There is also a site called www.aromaticscience.com you can check out. I hope for the sake of patients everywhere that doctors learn to integrate natural alternatives into their practices instead of instantly resulting to writing prescriptions. This is why the US still ranks 37th in the world for healthy citizens yet we spend the most globally on healthcare.Blessings to You
Justin Smith, MD
24
March
2015
Amy,I really do strive to have an open mind about various available treatments. My patients and my regular readers will attest that to be the case. In fact, that was the entire purpose of looking into oils and whether there is evidence showing their use to be effective and safe in children. I actually expected and was hoping to find more than I did. I read through a list of article titles about 20 pages long, read a large percentage of those summaries and read the full text of 40 articles. I also looked into some more "pro-oil" websites (including paying some subscription fees to be sure I left no stone un-turned) and social media accounts to see if I could find other resources that might not be available from a typical web search. Unfortunately, there was not. Despite many people claiming they work and how they have worked for their family, no one has systematically looked at their use in a large, double-blinded trial to see how effective they are or what side effects could possibly results from their use.The tests that you are referring to for Young Living are supporting their claim that they are pure. Those tests have nothing to do with whether they work or how they work.Justin Smith, MD
Amy
24
March
2015
I sure you will not post my response but hopefully you read it.....
amy
24
March
2015
Obviously you have been trained by the pharm companies. Glad my children don't go to Cooks or my grandchildren if this is the knowledge of the MD's there. You really should train yourself to be more knowledgeable of all different treatments. Very sad you actually write about this. I personally have been using high quality oils for years and have not had to take any medication for my allergies since nor have I been sick even 1 time. Never taken the Flu shot and work in a doctors office who see many patients daily with illnesses and yet somehow I magically don't get anything nor have I for years. My daughter works in a hospital and has used oils for many years and yet she never gets sick either wow get research you have done. Maybe you should look again. Oh and BTW YL does 6 different test on each batch of oils by 6 different companies who are non related that is on top of their own testing. Again should of researched a little before you wrote this article.